New assembly dividing Venezuela begins work

by Antonio Miles August 6, 2017, 0:44
New assembly dividing Venezuela begins work

Supporters of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government hold pictures of late president Hugo Chavez and national hero Simon Bolivar as they demonstrate before the first session of the constitutional assembly in Caracas.

Former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez led a cadre of close Maduro allies who resigned top posts to run for the constituent assembly, which will have sweeping powers to upend institutions and go after the government's opponents. "The violent fascists, those who wage economic war on the people, those who wage psychological war, justice is coming for you", Rodriguez said, adding, "Don't think we're going to wait weeks, months or years".

The new constituent assembly, which Ms Ortega said was fraudulently elected last weekend, unanimously made a decision to remove her in its first session on Saturday.

"We must continue to fight for freedom and democracy in Venezuela", she said at a news conference afterward.

More than 120 people have died in four months of opposition protests.

The foreign ministers of South America's largest nations meet in Lima, Peru, next week to wrestle with the issue of how to halt this nightmare on their doorstep.

Lopez remains incarcerated, one of hundreds of what the opposition called political prisoners.

The Vatican had joined dozens of States in rejecting the new assembly, which it said "creates a climate of tension and conflict" in the overwhelmingly Catholic country, The Guardian reported. The Venezuelan bishops denounced the vote as unconstitutional, since it was not authorized by the existing parliament, which is controlled by the opposition.

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The release of Ledezma happened just hours before the convening of Maduro's constituent assembly, consisting of 545 members, all socialists handpicked by the regime tasked with rewriting the country's 1999 constitution.

Britain's foreign secretary has also criticized Venezuela's President Nicholas Maduro for his arrest of two opposition leaders.

The assembly said Tarek William Saab, a staunch government supporter and a Maduro loyalist, would replace Ortega Diaz as Venezuela's attorney general.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (L) speaks during a meeting with members of the Constituent Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela August 2, 2017.

U.S. national security advisor HR McMaster in an interview that aired Saturday on U.S. cable news channel MSNB accused Maduro of leading an "authoritarian dictatorship" that had staged a "coup" against democracy.

Meanwhile, Venezuela's intelligence service unexpectedly transferred a high-profile opposition figure, Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, from jail to house arrest, his wife said.

Last week, the USA imposed targeted sanctions on Maduro - who Trump has called a "dictator" - and more than a dozen of his close allies, freezing any USA assets they might have.

The country is suffering food and medicine shortages. While the government said that eight million citizens voted in favour of establishing the Constituent Assembly, the company that provided voting machines for the election said the turnout numbers results were tampered with.

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